Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More analysis of the Left

Here's John Powers on what the Left needs to do to redefine itself (hat tip: Instapundit). His four point program is for the Left to reclaim virtue, freedom, pleasure, and utopia and his vision is for "a dream bigger than hopes that the Democratic Party will come back into power four years from now".

You have to give Mr. Powers credit for ambitious thinking; even Karl Rove is looking for a mere political realignment instead of redefining civilization as we know it. But on a practical level, dreaming about getting the Democratic Party back in power four years from now has a lot more going for it. Even "promising more prescription drugs for seniors" is a pretty good election plan for candidates who are willing to put some serious effort into keeping that promise in their terms of office. Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" is a pretty good example. For all intents and purposes, it was really just a big list of what Newt thought a Republican Congress ought to be giving serious attention to doing. You might believe that every point on the list was a horrible idea, or that Newt was an evil, heartless bastard for proposing them, but you have to admit that as a tool for getting the Republicans running Congress for a decade, the Contract with America wasn't such a bad idea.

Of course, the drawback to taking a stand on what your party is for is that you might be taking your stand on an issue that's destined to lose. The flip side to Gingrich's "Contract with America" is Hillary Clinton's reform of the health care system. Health care reform was an issue that Bill Clinton had campaigned on, and it was an issue that he was willing to make a major legislative achievement of his first term in office. Unfortunately, as Hayes Johnson and David Broder illustrated in their book The System : The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point, Democratic Presidents going back to Woodrow Wilson have identified instituting a national health care system a bedrock principal of the Democratic party while damaging their Presidencies over and over again in their attempts to nationalize health care. If you've ever wondered why the Democratic party has only had 7 or 8 really good legislating years out of decades and decades of Congressional majorities, 20th century health care policy might be a good place to start researching.

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